Sweethearts of the Rodeo
Artist: Dog Kennel Hill
Label: Whitelight Records
Length: 13 tracks/47.00

A mixture of studio and live recordings from a band whose music is a mixture of American, British and Irish folk influences. Guest musician Andy Wain's dobro and pedal steel, mixed with Tim Beulay's vocals create a  distinctly country undercurrent, while Sarah Denton's violin occasionally conjures images of the Waterboys's This Is the Sea phase.

The balance of these various influences varies from piece to piece. The eigth track, "Dirt on my Shoes," wears its country influences proudly, while "Simple Man" bears strong echoes of the Waterboys taking on their Anglo-Celtic folk heritage. Beulay's vocals vary considerably with varying degrees of success. The vocals are not the strongest aspect of this recording, occasionally sounding weak or not quite matched with the musical focus of a track.

The lyrics are not stunning, but are poetic and delicate, largely written about romantics relationships. They don't go far towards exploring any spiritual dimension to the music, but that is not Dog Kennel Hill's emphasis.

Your satin rose smile is lost to my mind 
Written upon some cheap borrowed wine
But nothing can change beyond your door
I'd rather I'd known in spite of it all
(from "Sweet Seraphina")
There is occasionally a little crackle from the CD, which is rather disconcerting coming from this medium. That is an example of this project's main weakness. There is some interesting material contained within, but it could do with more consistent production and a little polish to make it  shine through.

James Stewart  10/16/99

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